On the 41st session of the WHC

As the G20 Summit in Hamburg wraps up to considerable media attention, I would like to spend some time reflecting on the other intergovernmental meeting currently under way, namely the 41st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (the body tasked with overseeing the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and managing the World Heritage List and the World List of Heritage in Danger).

This year, the Committee has addressed important dossiers, including increased logging in the Białowieża Forest, the widespread destruction of the Site of Palmyra, and the repeated coral bleaching events affecting the Great Barrier Reef. For many of the sites inscribed in the two lists, the negative human impacts are growing, and certain country policies plainly run counter to the objectives of the Convention.

At the same time, however, the World Heritage Convention remains a powerful symbol of hope, and a testament to how sites of outstanding cultural and natural value speak to the very existence of humankind on planet Earth. In particular, the new inscriptions shall remind us of the quintessential importance of the interactions between different populations, religions and cultures in shaping human civilization as we know it (the Hebron/Al Khalil Old Town in the West Bank, the Historic City of Yazd in Iran, Kulangsu island in China); of the inextinguishable interplay between nature and culture in creating unique cultural landscapes which underpin the identity of human societies (the Kujataa farming landscape in Greenland, Taputapuātea on Ra’iatea Island, the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape between Botswana and Namibia); and of the multiple direct and indirect functions played by natural ecosystems around the world, ranging from their role as habitats of vulnerable and rare species to the irreplaceable services they provide for human well-being (the Landscapes of Dauria in Mongolia, the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex in the Sudano-Sahelian region, the Primeval Beech Forests in the Carpathians and other areas of Europe).

In times of unprecedented threats to the world’s cultural and natural heritage, the work of UNESCO truly is invaluable, and after 35 years the World Heritage Convention continues to be one of the most relevant instruments in multilateral cooperation on global public goods. This is why all parties should refrain from politicizing its work, and instead seek to strengthen its contribution to cultural diplomacy, local livelihoods, and environmental protection.

For the newly inscribed properties, see: http://whc.unesco.org/en/newproperties/.

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Interview for #Faces4Change

A few months ago I was interviewed by UN Environment Cities and Lifestyles as part of their #Faces4Change Project, aimed at showcasing stories of young professionals integrating the #SDGs into their work and daily lifestyle.

The result is an informal chat that you can now read here, in the campaign’s website, together with anecdotes from other brilliant young innovators and leaders from around the world: http://faces4change.org/stories/piselli.html.

New CTEI Working Paper on trade and climate change

A study I recently co-authored (with Rana Elkahwagy and Vandana Gyanchandani) for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is now out as a Working Paper of the Centre for Trade and Economic Integration (CTEI) of the Graduate Institute of Geneva. It was prepared under the supervision of Prof. Joost Pauwelyn and Prof. Anne Saab as part of TradeLab, an independent NGO which brings together students, academics and practitioners to provide pro bono legal advice on international trade and investment matters to developing countries and other smaller stakeholders.

The study, entitled ‘UNFCCC Nationally Determined Contributions: Climate Change and Trade‘, assesses the legal interactions between the Paris Agreement and international trade in the light of country commitments under their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). More specifically, the study seeks to achieve a better understanding of the impacts of the ‘response measures’ contained in the NDCs on economic diversification, including their interplay with existing trade rules, in order to build mutual supportiveness between the climate and trade regimes while also contributing to broader sustainable development objectives.

You can read the working paper here.

SDSN Youth launches Youth Solutions Report

This article is adapted from the preface of first edition of the Youth Solutions Report. It was also published in SDSN Youth’s blog. Dario Piselli is the Project Leader for Solutions Initiatives of SDSN Youth and the editor-in-chief of the Youth Solutions Report.

On 31 January 2017, SDSN Youth, the global youth division of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), will officially launch the first edition of the Youth Solutions Report at the annual United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum (taking place on 30-31 January in New York). The Youth Solutions Report bears the fruits of a year-long process in which SDSN Youth, in partnership with Ashoka, PANORAMA (managed by IUCN and GIZ), Sustainia, The Resolution Project, and many other supporters, sourced youth-led solutions across all countries and regions to showcase the innovative approach that young people are taking in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With the help of a high-level Advisory Panel comprising world-leading experts in different disciplines, the Report identifies 50 youth-led projects, including entrepreneurial ventures, educational programs, research activities, and charity initiatives, and provides them with a platform that addresses the difficulties that young innovators face in securing funding, building capacity, communicating their experience and scaling their efforts. Covering an international spectrum, encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving and showcasing solutions from a broad range of fields and sectors, the Report closely aligns with the 17 SDGs and 169 targets that will shape the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda from Youth Needs to Youth Skills

When ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development‘ was agreed at the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, there was widespread agreement on the fact that the international community’s progress towards a sustainable future should be a matter of utmost importance for all inhabitants of this planet, but particularly for younger generations.

Across the Goals and targets included in the Agenda, a close look at the available data (which is, unfortunately, often missing or incomplete) reveals the unique toll that poverty, war, lack of opportunities, social exclusion, climate change and environmental degradation are taking on young people worldwide.

The primary issue that comes to mind is, of course, unemployment. In 2016, the International Labour Organization estimated that the global unemployment rate for youth has reached 13.1 percent, three times the adult unemployment rate and affecting young women more than men in almost all regions of the world. In addition, it is especially worrying that up to two thirds of youth in developing economies are currently without work, not studying, or engaged in irregular or informal employment, thereby fueling the risk of social unrest and further affecting the likelihood of conflict and migration.

Aside from the direct threat of unemployment, however, there are multiple, equally important dimensions to the challenges faced by young people in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Notwithstanding vast improvements in education and health since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, for example, the number of children and adolescents who are not in school is on the rise, whilst more than 2.6 young people aged 10-24 continue to die each year, mostly due to preventable causes. Today, more than 600 million youth live in fragile and conflict-affected territories, and the number of young people forcibly displaced by conflicts and disasters has skyrocketed since it was last measured in 2011, when it was already high at 14 million. Access to financial and social assets and business development services, which are crucial to helping youth make their own economic decisions and get out of poverty, remains an arduous tasks, and environmental change now threatens to directly erode youth livelihoods or aggravate the impact of other factors, such as health and work opportunities, in many countries.

On the one hand, the 2030 Agenda emphasized the need to address some of these daunting challenges, including unemployment, access to education and health care, and general lack of opportunities for the full realization of young people’s rights and capabilities. Moreover, it identified children and young women and men as critical agents for change, and lauded their ‘infinite capacities for activism in the creation of a better world’.

Why are youth-led solutions crucial to achieving the SDGs?

Yet, when describing the situation facing young people, who currently comprise one fourth of the global population, one aspect continues to be largely overlooked: the incredible potential of mobilizing and supporting their active contribution, rather than just discussing about their needs and problems. Young people not only have a stake because they will be the ones implementing the SDGs and because their well-being will depend on achieving them, but also (and especially) because they are part of the most educated generation in the history of the world, and through their skills, creativity, and enthusiasm they are uniquely positioned to deliver transformative change across multiple sectors of society. Globally, it has been estimated that young people are 1.6 times more likely than older adults to become entrepreneurs, have higher literacy rates, and are more networked than the global population as a whole. In fact, in the world’s least developed countries, young people are nearly three times more likely than the general population to be using the internet.

In other words, ranging from entrepreneurship to volunteering, scientific research, educational initiatives and all sorts of innovative endeavours, young people are already playing a major role in pushing our countries towards sustainable development. To name but a few, in this Report the founders of Liter of Light are shown bringing over 750,000 affordable solar lights to 15 countries; the talented team behind BenBen operates a Blockchain-based land registry that facilitates secure land transactions to encourage investments and transparent land resource management; FinFighters run a citizen shark science program to collect genetic data and information from Moroccan fishing ports and market; and the group running the SHAPE project uses mobile technology to promote citizens’ e-participation in their city’s public life.

This is why, now more than ever, the efforts of young people should be celebrated and showcased at all relevant levels. This is also why we believe it is crucial to bridge the gap that still exists between these youth-led solutions and those stakeholders, including businesses, governments, and fellow citizens, who could further empower, support and invest in them, once they know more about the incredible impact that youth are having across their communities and regions.

By launching the Youth Solutions Report, we aim to give further voice to young leaders and innovators, by allowing them to communicate their undertakings, forge new partnerships and ultimately be the driving force behind the 2030 Agenda. Whether you are a policymaker, an impact investor, a philanthropist or a young individual yourself, we strongly encourage you to be part of this exciting initiative, not only by learning more about the 50 Solutions and Ideas that are included in the Report, but most importantly through your active support to youth solutions.

In 2017, SDSN Youth will use the Youth Solutions Report as the first step of a comprehensive, long-term strategy that will allow young changemakers to have access to multiple opportunities for funding, technical assistance, mentoring, and networking. We look forward to engaging with existing and new partners on joint events, actions and programs that create these opportunities, and to do that we need the widest possible support at all relevant levels.

Let’s make sure that the untapped potential of youth is finally mobilized to meet the challenge of sustainable development.

Can the 2030 Agenda change the norm?

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Today, the prestigious Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation published my new piece on the role that the Sustainable Development Goals can play in changing the normative work of the United Nations to make it fit for the purpose of implementing the 2030 Agenda.

I am honored to be featured by an organization which seeks to uphold the crucial role of multilateralism in solving today’s complex challenges, in the spirit of a man whom John F. Kennedy once called “the greatest statesman of our century”.

In the article, I argue that in order to transform the UN approach to the development of new norms, it is necessary to understand what the Agenda itself implies for the evolution of international law, and more specifically for the establishment and further specification of sustainable development as a legal principle of integration between economic, social and environmental considerations.

You can read the article here.

Youth, the SDGs and the Food Sustainability Index

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On December 1, I was honored to be invited to take part in the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition, hosted by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BFCN) at Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy.

There, I had the opportunity to join Peter Bakker (CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development), Hilal Elver (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food) and Rosie Boycott (Chair of London Food Policy) in a panel discussion on the launch of the first-ever Food Sustainability Index (FSI), a joint publication by BCFN and The Economist Intelligence Unit which ranks countries according to the sustainability of their food systems across the pillars of food waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. In line with the work that is being undertaken at the UN level on a robust indicator framework to monitor the implementation of the SDGs, the FSI represents a helpful, if perfectible, tool to assist and empower communities, including young people, to take action to transform their agricultural and food systems for sustainable development. You can read more about it here.

At the event, which among many others was co-organized by the the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, I also joined my colleagues and fellow SDSN Youth delegates Andrea Zucca (National Representative for Italy), Fabrizio Saladini (Regional Representative for the Mediterranean) and Michela Magni (Project Officer, Solutions Initiatives) to celebrate and connect with youth solutions presented at the annual BCFN YES!, a competition for young researchers in the food and agricultural sectors.

Throughout the world, young farmers, young entrepreneurs, young leaders in rural communities are taking the lead to achieve SDG2 and positively impact their countries and regions. It is crucial that we recognize them not only as a key demographic for policy-makers to target, but also as exceptional problem-solvers and active contributors to the implementation of the food and agriculture-related targets of the 2030 Agenda.

  • You can watch the panel discussion on the launch of the Food Sustainability Index here (the panel starts at 53:07).
  • You can also watch the highlights of the 2016 edition of the BCFN Young Earth Solutions competition here.